At age 27, Cal Cunningham became one of North Carolina’s youngest people to ever be elected to the state Senate.
Soon after, though, 9/11 rocked America and Cunningham felt called to serve. He enlisted in the Army and served as a Judge Advocate General in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
He announced, last year, that he would run for lieutenant governor of North Carolina but has since changed his mind. He is now running for the Democratic nomination for the US Senate seat currently held by Republican Thom Tillis.
In several polls, Cunningham is in a virtual tie with Tillis in a prospective matchup.
When he sat down with FOX8, we asked Cunningham why he moved from running for lieutenant governor to running for the Senate and he says it came from listening to what people were asking him.
“Will you take on the bigger challenge of going to Washington and getting at some of the more fundamental problems?” Cunningham says he often heard. “And at some point if I'm going to listen, I've got to act.”
With the nation’s debt continuing to skyrocket – currently around $22 trillion – Cunningham says that Congress is going to have to make some difficult choices.
“My two kids, Caroline and Will, are in high school today,” says Cunningham when asked about government spending. “They hopefully will be in college while I'm in office. They are about to inherit this earth and I cannot tell them as their dad that this country is in a better place today than it was when I was their age. On Tom Tillis's watch, we have voted to add trillions of dollars to that debt. We have not been fiscally responsible. There's going to have to be some sort of reckoning. I'm not sure what that looks like today, but we can't be dishonest with the people of North Carolina as politicians had been in recent years.”
That may be a difficult task with how little the two major parties are working together these days. Cunningham says that’s partly a function of how little time they spend together outside of work.
“I think part of it's about listening to each other and we don't listen to each other anymore,” he said. “I think part of it's building relationships with each other and folks fly in and fly out at DC. They're there for very transactional reasons and I think that we've got a lot of work to do. Part of it's interpersonal, but part of it structural.”
See Cunningham discuss impeachment and America’s potential showdown with China in this edition of the Buckley Report.